Here’s an excerpt from Encyclopedia Of Practical Receipts And Processes, by William B. Dick, from 1872 New York:
Preservation of Leather. The extreme heat to which most men and women expose boots and shoes during winter deprives leather of its vitality, rendering it liable to break and crack. Patent leather particularly is often destroyed in this manner. “When leather becomes so warm as to give off the smell of leather, it is singed. Next to the singeing caused by fire heat, is the heat and dampness caused by the covering of rubber. Close rubber shoes destroy the strength of leather. The practice of washing harness in warm water and with soap is very damaging. If a coat of oil is put on immediately after washiiig, the damage is repaired. No harness is ever so soiled that a damp sponge will not remove the dirt; but, even when the sponge is applied, it is always useful to add a slight coat of oil by the use of another sponge. All varnishes, and all blacking containing the properties of varnish should be avoided. Ignorant and indolent hostlers are apt to use such substances on their harness as will give the most immediate effect, and these, as a general thing, are most destructive to the leather.
To Restore the Lustre of Leather. “When harness loses its lustre and turns brown, which almost any leather will do after long exposure to the air, the harness should be given a new coat of grain black. Before using this grain black, the grain surface should be well washed with potash water until all the grease is killed, and after the application of the grain black, oil and tallow should be applied to the surface. This will not only fasten the color, but make the leather flexible. Harness which is grained can be cleaned with kerosene or spirits of turpentine.
To Restore Softness to Leather. To restore the softness and pliancy of leather which has become hard by having been wet, apply neat’s foot oil and rub it in. Castor oil is a good substitute for neat’s foot oil for softening leather belts, boots and harness. But the best oil for harness, is 1 quart neat’s foot oli, 4 ounces beef’s tallow, and 3 table-spoonfuls lampblack; add 4 ounces bees’ wax for use in summer weather.
To Restore the Lustre of Morocco. The lustre of Morocco is restored by a varnishing with the white of an egg. Apply with a sponge.
To Make Boots Waterproof. Beef tallow, 4 ounces; resin, 1 ounce; bees’ wax, 1 ounce; melt together. Add, when cold, a quantity of neat’s foot oil equal to the mass. Apply with a rag, warming the boots before a lire, to the soles as well as uppers, and rub in well with the hand. Two applications will make the boots thoroughly waterproof and still keep them soft. We, however, do not approve of such preparations, as the feet generally perspire more than any other portions of the body, and any waterproof preparations applied to boots prevent the perspiration from escaping, and keep the feet wet and cold. The New England fishermen preserve their boots waterproof by this method, which, it is said, has been in use among them above 100 years.
To Make Boots Water-Tight. In a pint of best winter-strained lard oil, dissolve a piece of paraffine the size of a hickory nut, aiding the solution with a gentle heat, say 130° or 140° Fahr. The readiest way to get pure paraffine is to take a piece of paraffine candle. Rub this solution on your boots about once a month ; they can be blacked in the meantime. If the oil should make the leather too stiff, decrease the proportion of paraffine, and vice versa. A gentleman who has tried this says: – I have used this for 8 years past, and boots have lasted me two winters, the uppers always remaining soft, and never cracking. I have tried bees’ wax, resin, tar, etc., but never found any other preparation half so good.
Sportsmen’s Waterproof Composition for Boots. Dissolve by heat 1 ounce pure bottle India-rubber shavings in 1 quart neat’s foot oil, and add 2 ounces tallow. This makes a fine waterproof composition for boots, and is recommended to sportsmen.
Polish for Patent Leather Goods. Take 1/2 pound molasses or sugar, 1 ounce gum-arabic, and 2 pounds ivory black; boil them well together, then let the vessel stand until quite cooled, and the contents are settled; after which, bottle off. This is an excellent reviver, and may be used as a blacking in the ordinary way, no brushes for polishing being required.
Glycerine Composition for Leather. As is well known, glycerine has found extensive application in tanning, as it has been discovered that it adds materially to the elasticity and strength of the leather. Especially has it been found of great value in protecting leather bands of machinery from cracking and drying. The partially tanned leather is immersed for considerable time in a bath of glycerine, by which the pores are filled and such an elasticity and softness is imparted that objects manufactured from it are much less liable to break. In order to prepare a neutral gutta-percha composition with glycerine, take 3 to 4 pounds lampblack, 1/2 pound burnt bones (burnt ivory), cover up in a suitable vessel with 5 pounds glycerine and 5 pounds common syrup, and stir well until the whole is intimately mixed and free from lumps. 4 or 5 ounces of gutta-percha, finely cut, are to be put into a kettle, and after melting must be mixed with 20 ounces of sweet oil and dissolved, and 2 ounces of stearine added. While still warm the guttapercha solution must be incorporated with the syrup and lampblack, and after this is done, 10 ounces of Senegal gum dissolved in 11/2 pounds of water is also added. In order to impart an agreeable odor to the mass a small quantity of rosemary or lavender oil may be introduced. In using, the glycerine gutta-percha paste must be diluted with 3 or 4 parts of water. It gives a fine lustre, and, as it contains no acid, it does not injure the leather, but makes it soft and elastic and adds very much to its durability.
To Preserve and Clean Harness. In the first place, subject the harness to 1 or 2 coats (as the leather may need) of lampblack and castor oil, warmed sufficiently to make it penetrate the leather readily. Then make about 2 quarts of warm soap-suds, and with a sponge wash the harness. When dry, rub it over with a mixture of oil and tallow, equal parts, with sufficient lampblack to give it color; or, what is better, Prussian blue, which gives it a new and fresh look. This compound should be applied sparingly and well rubbed in, which can be quickly done and will leave a smooth and clean surface.
Harness Polish. Take 2 ounces mutton suet, 6 ounces bees’ wax, 6 ounces powdered sugar candy, 2 ounces soft soap, and 1 ounce indigo or lampblack. Dissolve the soap in 1/4 pint of water; then add the other ingredients; melt and mix together; add a gill of turpentine. Lay it on the harness with a sponge, and polish off with a brush.
To Clean Leather. Uncolored leather may be cleaned by applying a solution of oxalic acid with a sponge. Dissolve in warm water.
To Take Oil Out of Leather. Use strong (F. F. F. F.) aqua ammonia, which will take oil out without injury to the leather. It must be used 2 or 3 times in order to get it all out. First use it and let the leather stand until more comes out, and apply again. This is the only thing that will take it out and not hurt the leather.
Dubbing for Leather. Mix 2 pounds black resin, 1 pound tallow with 1 gallon train oil.
Jet for Harness and Boots. Dissolve 3 sticks of the best black sealing-wax in 1/2 pint spirits of wine; keep in a glass bottle, and shake well previous to use. Applied with a soft sponge. This gives the leather a fine black surface, which, however, is apt to crack more or less.
Shoemakers’ Black. A solution of green copperas (sulphate of iron) in about 12 times its weight in water. It is used to black leather which has been tanned with bark or other astringent matter, and to the edges of the soles etc., with a feather or brush.
Harness Liquid Blacking. Dissolve by heat, 4 ounces glue or gelatine and 3 ounces gum arabic in 3/4 pint water; add 7 ounces molasses and 5 ounces ivory black in very fine powder; gently evaporate until of a proper consistence when cold, stirring all the time. Keep in corked bottles.
Harness Waterproof Paste Blacking. Melt together 2 ounces mutton suet and 6 ounces bees’ wax; add 6 ounces sugar candy, 2 ounces soft soap, 21/2 ounces lampblack, and 1/2 ounce indigo in fine powder; when thoroughly mixed add 1/4 pint of oil of turpentine; put into pots or tins.
Harness “Waterproof Cake Blacking. Melt 1 pound bees wax, 1 ounce Prussian blue ground in 2 ounces linseed oil, i pound ivory black, 3 ounces oil of turpentine and 1 ounce copal varnish; mix well together and form into cakes whilst warm.
Harness Waterproof Blacking. Mix the same ingredients as in the last receipt, and while hot add 4 ounces soft soap and 6 ounces more oil of turpentine; put the paste into pots or tins. None of the above blackings will injure the leather.
To Apply Harness Blacking. Spread a very little of the blacking evenly on the surface of the leather, and polish by gentle friction with a brush or an old handkerchief. Paste blacking is thinned with water.